It’s actually quite strange how obsessed the world is with the female body. Yes, I know, men get it too, but not nearly to the same extent as women. It sounds a little funny, but it’s genuinely challenging to go a whole day without seeing a scantily clad female body plastered on a billboard or objectified in some way. Think about it; how many times have you seen the words “lose 5kg fast” or “get rid of that stubborn tummy” on the cover of New Idea? How many times a day do we compare ourselves to pictures of celebrities or supermodels who “don’t eat carbs after 4pm” or can afford a personal trainer to torture them 6 days a week?
Sure, obesity is a serious health problem, but there’s another problem that gets far less attention and impacts most of us every single day: obsession. We live in a world that is obsessed – absolutely obsessed – with our bodies! We’re made to hate them and then told to improve them and then encouraged to love them and on and on it goes in a horrible, vicious cycle! We’re told to “embrace ourselves at every shape and size”, and yet, we see images of celebrities who are criticised for their cellulite or the fact that they’ve (apparently) gained a kilogram or two. We’re told that women with and without curves are beautiful – that we are awesome the way we are – and yet, we’re encouraged to do punishing fat-blasting workouts to “get a body like Miranda Kerr’s”, because sorry, there actually is an ideal body and it sure ain’t yours!
The media and advertising industries don’t care about our wellbeing as women, they care about making money and selling us the “secret” to achieving the unattainable standards that they set themselves. So you see, unless we realise that these standards have been fabricated by an industry with a vested interest in making money out of our insecurities, we will continue to buy into the idea that these unattainable (and utterly unfulfilling) standards can actually be achieved (no doubt by eating cabbage for the rest of our lives or running 10km a day).
What’s also interesting is the way that numbers come into play. It’s funny how in almost every other area of life we’re encouraged to strive towards the “big numbers”. High marks in exams, more friends on Facebook, more followers on Instagram, a higher salary, more money in the bank, longer hair, a taller stature, more possessions… and yet, when it comes to weight we’re taught to look the other way. When it comes to weight, the smaller the number the better. And for what? Weighing less does not make you any kinder, any smarter, any more humble, any more hard working or creative. It does not make you any more loved, earn you any more friends or guarantee you a better life. So why do we chase a number that will never truly satisfy us? Why do we let our body mass or the amount of room we take up determine our worth?
The media and advertising industry has successfully convinced most of us that we aren’t good enough the way we were intended to be. They’ve convinced most of us that restrictive diets work, when in actual fact they don’t – the only thing that restrictive dieting achieves is a warped relationship with food that is incredibly damaging, both mentally and physically. I can vouch for that.
I wonder… can you imagine a world where diet talk doesn’t exist; where food is not connected to guilt or notions of “good” and “bad”? Can you imagine a world where the majority of food we eat consists of simple, home cooked meals prepared with love and eaten mindfully? To be honest, I can’t imagine such a place, but it is something we can work towards achieving.
Want to know some of the things I’ve been trying to do lately to separate myself from the land of diets and weight-loss?
- Avoiding health/weight-loss/food/exercise-related magazines! These things are exploding with contradictory advice that is heavily (and I mean HEAVILY) influenced by advertisers. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read that dairy is bad for us and that we should all be drinking watery nut milks, only to be told in the very same magazine that full-fat dairy products are not linked to weight gain at all. In fact, they’re beneficial! Confusing? Uh, yes!
- Avoiding body shaming, of myself and others. So maybe I don’t have a 6 pack or a perfectly proportioned body, but I wasn’t designed in that way and I don’t want to spend my entire life trying to maintain a shape and size that I wasn’t mean to be! What a pointless existence! The same goes for other people too – what right do I have to talk negatively about another’s body? It’s not my property! And maybe, just maybe, they’re happy the way they are. (I know, shocking!)
- Trying to think more reasonably about food. Is it worth eating something that may not be super healthy if it means you get to enjoy time with family or friends? Is one meal, or even a few days worth of not-so-healthy meals really going to do anything to your body? Nay, sir! I think not!